Former Member of Virginia House of Delegates Charged with Bribery and Extortion
WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia returned an indictment today charging Phillip A. Hamilton, a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates, with allegedly soliciting employees of Old Dominion University (ODU) for a paid position at the same time he was introducing legislation to fund the position, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Hamilton, 58, was charged with one count of federal program bribery and one count of extortion under color of official right. He will make an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Norfolk, Va., tomorrow.
According to the indictment, Hamilton began representing the 93rd District, which includes Newport News and James City County, Va., in 1988. As part of his duties, Hamilton sat on the Elementary & Secondary Education Subcommittee of the Virginia House Appropriations Committee.
The indictment alleges that from August 2006 through February 2007, Hamilton solicited employees of ODU for a position as director for the ODU Center for Teacher Quality and Educational Leadership. The center’s objective was to train teachers for success in urban school environments. According to the indictment, during this period, Hamilton simultaneously introduced legislation that would establish and fund the center, including his salary as the director.
According to the indictment, in an e-mail to an ODU official on Dec. 21, 2006, stating that the current budget did not include any funding for the center, Hamilton also allegedly indicated that his retirement payments from another source were being reduced in May 2007 and that he would need to supplement his current income. According to the indictment, an ODU official assured Hamilton in December 2006 and January 2007 that if ODU obtained funding from the Virginia General Assembly for the creation of the center, then Hamilton would have a job at the center. During this same period, in January 2007, Hamilton introduced a budget amendment in the House of Delegates to appropriate $1 million in fiscal year 2007-2008 (July 1, 2007 – June 30, 2008) for a “Center for Teacher Quality and Educational Leadership.” According to the indictment, Hamilton purposely kept ODU’s name out of the amendment so that it would be assigned to the Elementary & Secondary Education Subcommittee on which he served. The amendment passed the subcommittee and committee unanimously.
On Feb. 24, 2007, after a conference between the Virginia house and senate that resulted in an amendment to appropriate $500,000 to ODU for the center – for which Hamilton voted in favor - the budget bill was passed. The next day, according to the indictment, Hamilton and ODU officials exchanged e-mails about Hamilton receiving the director job. According to the indictment, approximately three people applied in response to a job posting for the position; however, none of them were interviewed. Hamilton, who was awarded the job, never submitted an application.
In June 2007, Hamilton and an ODU official signed an employee contract indicating, among other things, that Hamilton would direct the center and seek continual funding for the center. The contract also stated that Hamilton would be paid $40,000 per year. From approximately July 2007 through July 2009, Hamilton collected approximately $80,000 from ODU.
The indictment also alleges that Hamilton took numerous steps to conceal this arrangement, including telling ODU officials not to mention his name in connection with the center to members of the Virginia Senate Finance Committee; allegedly advising an ODU official to tell a Virginia senate staffer that the official, and not Hamilton, was the director of the center; and, unsuccessfully attempting to persuade ODU leadership not to release incriminating e-mails in response to a Freedom of Information Act request that ODU had received.
If convicted, Hamilton faces maximum penalties of up to 10 years in prison on the bribery charge, and up to 20 years in prison on the extortion charge. The indictment also seeks forfeiture.
An indictment is merely an allegation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney David V. Harbach II of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Seidel Jr. of the Eastern District of Virginia. The case was investigated by the FBI.